Social Media: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Social media connects our society in ways that were unimaginable just a few years ago. You can literally stay connected to friends, family, and perfect strangers around the world, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. It’s incredible that we live in a time when people have so much access to information at such a low cost. But, with great power comes great responsibility, and I’ve been thinking about some of the unfortunate side effects of this connectivity.

Social media has a lot of positive aspects for marketers and society at large. We can use it to improve our bottom line via data mining, “engaging in conversation”, and monitoring and measuring the buzz about our brand in the market place. Facebook marketers are working to use information on your profile to display ads tailored specifically for you. The informal days of Gallup Polls are becoming obsolete, since we can just check out the hashtags on Twitter for a quick read on the pulse of politics. You’ve got several social media platforms influencing human rights around the world. In short, we’re connected, informed, and using the vast network to our advantage, and I believe that’s largely a good thing.

However, what happens when our lives online pose risks to our lives in real life? How bad can it get when our most private selves are “outed” online, and our deepest fears realized after “help” from social media? For example, this woman’s attacker showed up on her doorstep… several times. The author questions whether he found her via a profile on Spokeo, a site that aggregates all your online data into an easily accessible profile (note that she states this information is not available online, but the premise of the site is that it uses information from the internet). What happens when governments punish those who criticize them on social media platforms? At what point do we question whether everyone knowing our every move is healthy? What about cyber bullying (the many cases of teen suicide reported as a result of Facebook posts), streaming illicit content to thousands of people (the case of suicide and reputations ruined after being unknowingly taped during a compromising situation), or tweeting unfounded complaints to a million followers (threatening business to give in to your demands or suffer the consequences of a blow to their brand).

Then there’s the ugly, literally. This Forbes article talks about girls posting videos on YouTube to ask if they are fat, ugly, or pretty. Have we really turned into a society that forces us to seek validation from perfect strangers? Do our youth have such low self-esteem that they must take to social media to connect with their “friends”? Is a high Klout score really all there is to achieve in life? There are real concerns that people becoming so obsessed with connecting online, that they’re forgoing or harming connections in real life.

I think all of the benefits and concerns about social media need to be addressed, and I think it’s fascinating how quickly and completely social media has altered our relationships, both professional and personal. How do we go about making laws, relationships, and business plans with all the complex issues that connectivity brings to light? How do we continue to ensure that our progress is doing more good than harm?

TOOL Censors Cell Phones

My husband and I recently attended a TOOL concert, and I found it pretty funny that the ushers were actively monitoring the use of cell phone cameras and cell phone videos. Remember the attempted cell phone bans from sports stadiums a few years ago? Fortunately, the band and the venue aren’t trying to keep people from bringing them in at all, but it’s pretty useless and futile to try to ban media use once inside. In fact, I think the videos and pictures actually help the brand!

Hyping up the experience. When cell phone videos and pictures are uploaded to social media sites, it just makes the people at home wish they were at the concert. A grainy, shaky, incompletely cell phone video does not do the experience justice, so would-be ticket buyers are not going to abandon a purchase of “the real thing” after seeing a YouTube video. In fact, since they know the video doesn’t come close to the live experience, viewing the video only increases their desire to actually be at the concert. When other fans post up footage, it serves to create even more buzz for the brand. If you can see just a little bit of the awesome lights and sounds at the concert, you’re much more likely to want to purchase tickets in the future.

Engaging the fans. “Engage” is the number one goal of social media, and “conversations” are evidence of achieving that goal. What better way to engage fans than to have them sharing all aspects of your content? It’s an easy segue to say, “You think the lasers look cool on the video, you should see them in real life!” Fans can talk about the best seating, the acoustics, the playlist, and the graphics, and it’s much more than just talk when you’re able to share the experience via social media.

Top-of-mind and building loyalty. Souvenirs remind people of a wonderful experience, and showing those souvenirs makes other people wish they’d been there to have the experience. The more souvenirs a person has to evoke a good memory, the more loyal they become to the provider of the good memory. If someone is logging on to Facebook and seeing tons of pictures and videos of the TOOL concert that they attended, that experience stays at the forefront of their mind, and they want to have that experience again. It’s proven that people want their choices to be supported by their peers, so sharing, discussing, and viewing this content with your peers makes you feel like you made a good choice to attend the concert. This positive re-enforcement entrenches your loyalty to the band, and your likelihood to repeat the choice.

The laws haven’t kept up with technology, but I think marketers are beginning to realize the benefits of sharing the content instead of keeping it in the live venue. I’m hoping the bans will be lifted soon, since they only hurt the brands they’re meant to protect.

BeKnown Giveaway

 

Business card holder, $10 Starbucks giftcard, Essential Interview Grooming Tools, courtesy of BeKnown.

 

I’m excited to announce the first giveaway on the blog, courtesy of the team from BeKnown. The package includes a business card holder, $10 Starbucks giftcard, and Essential Interview Grooming Tools. Many items in this giveaway cater to my female readers, but the application itself is suitable for men and women!

BeKnown is a new site powered by Monster.com that allows you to utilize your Facebook network for professional purposes. It’s similar to LinkedIn, in that it allows you to upload your resume, write and request recommendations, and make connections to other professionals. However, it allows you to utilize your Facebook network. BeKnown integrates all your connections on one platform, to allow you to manage your professional network and your personal network in a single place on the web. And, because BeKnown is connected to Monster.com, you’ll receive job recommendations related to you profile.

BeKnown recently released and iPhone version of the app, in addition to their standard Facebook app. You can check out a guided tour of the platform, join them on BeKnown.com, or find them on Facebook.

I think BeKnown is another tool in the online presence arsenal. I think it is a great tool for college students and young professionals to build their network, but I think that more seasoned professionals are already in the habit of using LinkedIn and Facebook separately. As more employers search for candidates online, research candidates online, and even hire online, a strong, professional web presence will be essential to success. Since so many people are already on Facebook, BeKnown is an easy transition for managing a professional network as well.

 

Here’s the deal on how to win the giveaway package: The giveaway entries close at midnight on Wednesday, December 7, 2011, and I’ll announce a winner on Thursday, December 8, 2011. There are two ways to enter:

1) Check out the BeKnown site, and leave a comment on Consciously Corporate about your favorite feature or a feature that you think needs improvement.

2) Tweet this post and your impression of the BeKnown platform.

If you leave a comment on the blog, please leave a valid email address, so that I can contact you with details if you win. I’ll DM you on Twitter if you enter the giveaway via Tweet.

 

I’ll choose two winners to receive the package, which includes a business card holder, $10 Starbucks giftcard, and the Essential Interview Grooming Tools.

Freebies

Jewel tones and a black pencil skirt might be my new favorite combo!

 

Gorgeous necklace to add a little fun to such a conservative outfit.

 

Skirt: Ann Taylor LOFT

T-shirt: Target

Cardigan: Target

Bracelet: Target

Necklace/Earrings/Belt: NY & Co.

Shoes: Alfani

Like the outfit? See more details here!

 

I’ve been working my way through the tactics that retailers use to partner with bloggers, and today’s post discusses the “freebies” that retailers give to bloggers and readers.

Giveaways are usually done from the retailer to the blogger, who then passes it along to their readers. First, the retailer gives an item to the blogger to work into their regular wardrobe, and often provides the exact same item to the blogger for a reader to win. Most bloggers require the reader to leave comment, Tweet the post, or like their Facebook page to be entered into the giveaway lottery. To me, giveaways are not as engaging as some of the other methods, as it only requires a quick one-line mention, instead of browsing through the retailer’s merchandise or store.

Contests, on the other hand, are a great way to engage bloggers and readers. Many contests include a story or picture involving the retailer, such as, “Tell us what items you love most at [Retailer], and how you would style them, to be entered into a contest to win a $100 shopping spree!” Or, “Send us a photo wearing an item from [Retailer], and you’ll be entered to win [item]!” I think contests get the readers thinking about ways to incorporate the retailer’s items into their daily lives, and may encourage them to step foot into a store. The more you can get a person to imagine your brand in their life, the more likely they are to purchase something from you.

Discounts are a great way for the blogger, reader, and retailer to win. When bloggers give discount codes, they are more likely to have that post re-Tweeted or posted on other social media sites, and their readers will be more loyal, in the hope that they’ll receive another discount code. The reader wins because they get reduced prices on items that they’ve already seen on their favorite blogger, and continuing to read the blog feels like a reward. Finally, the retailers win, as they have built-in tracking to measure the ROI, and a targeted audience for a discount, leading to a higher likelihood of purchase.

Freebies are popular among the blog community, and retailers are cashing in on this type of marketing strategy. Who doesn’t like a freebie? Like the outfit? See more details here!

Retail Marketing

 

A feisty outfit after a long absence!

Dress: JC Penney

Shoes: Alfani

Earrings: NY & Co.

Like the outfit? See more details here!

After a long absence, the outfits are making an appearance on the blog again! As I’m not a fashion blogger, the outfits may come and go in spurts, but a recent comment on Corporette sparked my interest in doing another outfit post. I read Corporette regularly, more for the comments than the actual posts. Occasionally, a “what are you wearing today” comment thread pops up, and the women will describe their outfit, shoes, and accessories for the day. During one of these threads, a commenter noted that she felt like it was a prompt from a retail marketer to get insight. While this is definitely not the case for that thread, it’s not unusual for retailers to target influential bloggers for partnerships, features, and information. It’s a great strategy that combines thought leadership, “real” marketing, and the bright (not so) new toy, social media.

First, this strategy is effective because you’re reaching a targeted audience through a credible source. The blogger is already a thought leader with strong influence over their readers, so a recommendation from this blogger is almost like a recommendation from a close friend. And, who do we believe more? The greedy advertisers with a profit motive, or the friendly blogger who just wants to help us look great? Retailers know that reaching an audience through a blogger offers mass-media effects, with much less skepticism from customers.

Second, people love to see “real” marketing, and a blogger wearing an outfit makes a bigger impact than an airbrushed model or a mannequin. How many people honestly have a model’s figure? Many people, especially women, think that they must have a model’s body to pull off an outfit, so seeing it on a real woman (or man, though the prevalence of fashion blogging is higher among women) makes them feel like they, too, could wear the outfit featured in the post. On Corporette, for example, “The Skirt” is a closet staple, regularly reported on by commenters and blog owner alike. “The Skirt” is a Halogen skirt at Nordstrom’s, with rave reviews from an influential blogger, and a backing from the whole community.

The concept of “community” leads me to the third reason this strategy is effective: social media. The ability to really connect to a brand is higher now than it has ever been. Blogs allow people to connect with not only the owner, but the wider community on the web. Thus, as a retailer, you want to plug into that community, and partnering with the blogger at the head of the community is a great place to deliver your message. Once the community embraces your brand message, it’s no longer about a corporation “selling” an item, but a community championing an item.

This post details the “why” of retailers working with bloggers, and I plan to take a look at the “how” over several posts in the coming weeks. Like the outfit? See more details here!

Tweet Your Customer Service

My exchange with @NBAA

Yesterday’s post talked about Blockbuster’s missed opportunity to provide great customer service. Today’s experience is the exact opposite, as I had a great customer experience over Twitter with the NBAA. Our conference starts in just a few weeks, and I’ve been waiting patiently (ok, not so patiently, but still) for the shuttle bus schedule to post on their website. My boss is also waiting patiently (again, not so patiently, but still!) for me to give him the information about the shuttle. While checking my Twitter feed, an update from @NBAA posted, and I decided, why not tweet them about the shuttle schedule? I haven’t interacted with them much via social media, and I’ve been pretty skeptical of the value of Twitter in this industry. But, they’ve proved me wrong on this one!

Speed. After tweeting my question about the bus schedule, I received an answer a few minutes later, instead of days later like I’ve experienced when emailing the conference organizers. This speed is the major appeal of Twitter, allowing for multiple active conversations. When companies take customer service online, they’re able to detect and solve problems much faster than phone or email. This is especially helpful during conferences, as events happen quick! Plugging in to the conference Twitter feed is a great way to ensure that you don’t miss key moments at the show. When time is of the essence, Twitter is a valuable tool.

Broad reach. I know I’m not the only person looking for the shuttle schedule, so the NBAA was able to help a lot of people by replying to my question with the link. Now, all their followers can see that the link is ready, and the NBAA won’t be dealing with the same question from 100 different attendees. The broad reach on Twitter is a contributing factor to the speed mentioned above. Social media reaches tons of people in just a few keystrokes, making information more available to everyone. Instead of one-off communication, companies can engage their customers en masse.

Remember me. This is more about good customer service, but I’m glad they didn’t forget about my question. It’s been almost a week since I asked them for the schedule, and I figured I’d just have to check back on the website daily until the schedule posted. Instead, the NBAA remembered me, and it made me feel like a valued member of their network. Many social media platforms offer tools to help you remember to get back to someone, and my name popping up in their feed might have jogged their memory about my question. Remembering your customers is key! Don’t let their questions go unanswered when you have the tools available to get them the information they need.

I’ve seen value from Twitter in other projects, and I think the NBAA is effectively using their Twitter feed to enhance the upcoming show. I love to see companies use tools to provide excellent customer service, and I think Blockbuster can learn a few things from the NBAA. Have you seen social media and customer service in action?